Covid-19 Adds To The Tragic Kennedy Legend.

On March 21, 1962, President John F. Kennedy said: “‘There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war, and some men are wounded, and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic, and some are stationed in San Francisco. It’s very hard in military or in personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.’ (my emphasis)

At the time he said those words he couldn’t imagine that in 611 days he would suffer a great unfairness of being assassinated. Nor could he possible imagine the deaths and tragedies that would happen within his family that would make some suggest that there was a Kennedy Curse.

The Kennedy family is one of courage, athleticism, intelligence and charm imbued with the idea of public service. JFK’s grandfather, Honey Fitz, the son of  poor Irish immigrants living in Boston’s North End, graduated from Boston Latin School and entered Harvard Medical School. He dropped out in his first year to support his family when his father died . At age 31 he ran as a Democrat and was elected to Congress. He served three terms. Later he became mayor of Boston. He started the family tradition of serving the nation.

I always liked this story Honey Fitz spun. He convinced President Grover  Cleveland to veto an anti-immigration bill introduced by Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Massachusetts. Lodge coming upon him said: “You are an impudent young man. Do you think the Jews and Italians have any right in this country?” Fitgerald replied: “As much as your father or mine. It was only a difference of a few ships.”

Fitz’s oldest daughter Rose married Joseph Kennedy who served as ambassador to England. World War II brought the death of his oldest son a pilot in the Army Air Corps and almost the death of JFK who served in the Navy in the Pacific. After the assassination of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, RFK, was also murdered running for president. Then untimely death called upon the next generation when JFK’s only son died in a plane crash, another family member skiing, and one in the clutches of addiction. Nor would the great grandchildren of Joe and Rose be spared. How unfair that a family dedicated to education, helping others and public service has suffered so greatly

But far and away in my mind the cruelest and most heartrending tragedy is the recent loss of 40-year-old Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean and her 8-year-old son, Gideon. It bothers me enormously affecting me like few other deaths. I woke during the night thinking of the horror of a mother and her eight year old son being swept out to sea in an unstable canoe desperately trying to fight against the wind and tide: exhausting themselves as these forces of nature overtook them dragging them ever further from safety into the wilds of Chesapeake Bay. Imagining the desperation of the mother, the fears and the cries of her son, and the slowly rising knowledge that the canoe was no match for the wind and waves and their knowledge they were headed for their doom with no way to prevent it tears at my soul. Life may be unfair but the thought of their plight chills, angers and fills me with sadness and suggests something far beyond unfairness.

They started the day going to the vacant home of Maeve’s mother to protect and isolate themselves from Covid-19. They could spend time outside playing games knowing they were safe from the virus. But they weren’t. Had it not put out its evil hand they would never have been there.

An errant kick of the ball into the water, a quick decision to retrieve it, the ball like the one that a child chases into traffic, leading them from a quiet inlet to their demise.

Oh how sad!

May they Rest In Peace.




6 thoughts on “Covid-19 Adds To The Tragic Kennedy Legend.

  1. AMEN, another great tragedy visited upon this great family. A brother-in-law died in WWII, also: JFK’s sister Kathleen—”joined the war effort. Kathleen, the fourth of his nine children, volunteered for the Red Cross in London, in part to be closer to Billy Hartington, a wealthy British aristocrat she’d met while her father was ambassador. She and Hartington married in May 1944, but the groom, a captain in the British Army, was killed in combat three months later.”

    And we know RFK’s grandaughter, RFK, Jr.’s niece, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, about to enter her senior year at Boston College, died of an accidental drug overdose in August 2019.

    And yes, the Kennedy Family is a great, legendary American family dedicated to public service, who have suffered grievously. My praise for their service and prayers for their sufferings and losses.

    2. I saw Saving Private Ryan again last night: The General recalls the five Sullivan brothers who were killed aboard the USS Juneau in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Then the General reads Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby of Boston:

    Executive Mansion
    Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

    Dear Madam,

    I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

    I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

    I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

    Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

    A. Lincoln

    1. Mrs. Bixby, a widow, in Boston reported her five sons killed initially; apparently she hadn’t heard from them. By the end of the war, two sons were killed, one missing and two came back alive, one or both had been wounded and hospitalized as I recall.
      If Lincoln’s letter would have been appropriate if written to any parent who’d lost a child in service to America.

      1. “Lincoln’s letter would have been appropriate if written to any parent who’d lost a child in service to America.”

        How true, Bill. I remember sending my brother off in 1967 at Logan. Would I ever see him again? He is fine and living in Atlanta with three sons and four grandchildren. His life is good. He knows how lucky he was. One of my customers in Milton lost her brother in the South Pacific in WW II. Forty years later she still was in mourning. If one word was needed to describe Rose Kennedy it would be ‘stamina’.

        1. The torment and anguish visited upon those at home should not be overlooked. I saw this thinly disguised misery in my parents and siblings when my brother went over in ’67 as a Marine Lt. Even the stoicism of an Irish mother could completely mask the nervous tension over the household. This did not help when I went over in ’69, knowing what those at home were enduring.

          Recognize and honor these loved ones who suffer these burdens in silence.

        2. Well said, Abe.
          My mom lost her brother in WWII and to this day on one of my jackets I wear an Army Air Corps Insignia in his memory. He was a navigator on a B-17 bomber, married, with a young son, who now lives in Texas with his two daughters and grandchildren, too. God bless America.

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